By Jen Cole, Guest Blogger*
Between 2014 and 2017, investigative stories from the Guardian, the Associated Press, and the New York Times documented instances of human rights abuses in the seafood industry. In addition, a flurry of media stories around seafood mislabeling have peppered the media landscape in the past few years. These issues have engaged consumers and businesses, prompting efforts in the industry to mitigate human rights abuses and seafood fraud. Governments, NGOs, and others are providing resources for businesses looking to take a proactive approach in their own supply chains, whether they’re looking to combat abuse with legal means, or tackle fraud through traceability – a term that describes the ability to track the flow of products and product transformations throughout supply chains.
Given the increasing focus on these topics, FishWise – a sustainable seafood consultancy based in Santa Cruz, California – has released two white papers which provide an overview of the landscapes of social responsibility and traceability in seafood supply chains: ‘Social Responsibility in the Global Seafood Industry’ and ‘Advancing Traceability in the Seafood Industry’.
‘Social Responsibility’ includes an updated review of media reports highlighting instances of slavery in global seafood supply chains and key government policies and initiatives across sectors. The white paper also describes next steps for businesses and environmental NGOs seeking to improve social responsibility in seafood supply chains.
While companies are publicly committing to sustainable seafood sourcing policies, the challenge is now to make it possible for companies to tack the origin of their products to ensure that species and attributes of the products are meeting their policies and communicated to the customer accurately. For companies that buy and sell seafood, the lack of product origin information and supply chain transparency can pose significant risks. Fortunately, many companies have already begun the work to ensure end-to-end, electronic, interoperable traceability systems are in place throughout their supply chains, often with the assistance of NGOs, government bodies, and technology companies.
“Collaboration is critical because no one government, company, or NGO has the influence to eliminate human rights abuses on their own,” said Mariah Boyle, Traceability Division Director at FishWise. “It will take an organized and sustained effort across sectors to achieve meaningful improvements.”
FishWise’s updated traceability white paper, ‘Advancing Traceability’, echoes the call for ongoing collaboration. It highlights many traceability initiatives happening across sectors, and provides background on a range of important seafood traceability policies and regulations. The paper also outlines next steps seafood businesses of all types can take to improve their traceability practices, and provides a discussion of future traceability work on the horizon.
“It is an exciting time to be working on seafood traceability. New government requirements, novel efforts by individual companies, new NGO collaborations, and pre-competitive initiatives by private sector leaders are all focusing on this critical foundation of seafood supply chains,” said Boyle. “By sharing examples and providing guidance, we hope our white paper will empower more supply chains to make traceability improvements.”
*Jen Cole is a Project Manager at FishWise
The Human Trafficking Center, housed in the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, is the only two-year, graduate-level, professional-training degree in human trafficking in the United States. One way graduate students contribute to the study of human trafficking is by publishing research-based blogs. The HTC was founded in 2002 to apply sound research and reliable methodology to the field of human trafficking research and advocacy.
Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the world’s leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel.
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